The region’s air ambulance charity has submitted plans for its new operational base and Medical Centre of Excellence, which it claims will lead to more lives being saved across the North.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) hopes to build the facility at Urlay Nook, near Stockton-on-Tees, on the former Elementis chromium works site.
GNAAS has agreed a deal in principle for the site but the sale is dependent on a number of factors including the success of the planning application, which will be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee.
The entire project, including the purchase of the land, the buildings, and the construction of the new facilities, is forecast to cost £3.9M.
This is being financed through a combination of fundraising, reserves, additional borrowing, and grants from the Government through the LIBOR banking fine fund.
Last year, at his autumn statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £1m from the fund would be allocated to the project.
This was £900,000 short of what GNAAS had applied for, but Grahame Pickering MBE, the charity’s chief executive, today confirmed the project would still go ahead, albeit over a longer timescale than previously proposed.
The plans will incorporate an existing office building, which would house the Medical Centre of Excellence alongside the charity’s operational and support staff including fundraising, lottery and admin teams.
The 1,500sqm hangar also featured in the plans include space for three aircraft as well as dormitories and parking for the charity’s 24-7 trauma car service.
“The renovation and repurposing of the existing facilities could potentially start in the new year,” Mr Pickering said. “But the construction of the hangar could be delayed slightly to preserve the financial stability of the charity.
“If the application is successful, we will be asking supporters to give whatever they can to support the project. I cannot stress enough how vital this is for the future of the charity and for the future of pre-hospital care in the region.
“The benefits to the charity and the wider public are many. Fundamentally though, it will save the charity tens of thousands of pounds which can be spent on frontline healthcare, it gives us a stable home for the first time, and through the Medical Centre of Excellence, we will have the facility to research clinical innovations that will save even more lives.”
Mr Pickering said the GNAAS board of trustees had given the green light to the project, having scrutinised the plans alongside the financial proposals. An environmental survey has been carried out, taking into consideration the site’s former use as a chemical works, and found there to be no risk to workers or visitors to the site.
If the proposals go ahead, the charity would leave its base at Durham Tees Valley Airport, as well as offices in Darlington town centre. Its bases at Newcastle International Airport and Langwathby, near Penrith, continue to be integral to its future plans.
To keep up to date with the development, please visit www.gnaas.com/our-new-home
Costs associated with the planning application and a feasibility study were met by a grant.